Forest Service Policies for National Recreation Trails

National Recreation Trails (NRTs) are managed by various local, state and federal agencies. To consider applying for NRT designation for a trail on land administered by the US Department of Agriculture, contact the appropriate USDA Forest Service NRT contact. Trails on all other lands should use the appropriate National Park Service contact.

 The following is the USDA Forest Service policy and management procedures for NRTs from:

2353.04f - Regional Foresters.

1. Forest Development Trail Systems.

a. Approve Forest Development Trail systems as a component of the Forest Plan.

2. National Recreation Trails.

a. Designate National Recreation Trails occurring on National Forest lands.

b. As appropriate, designate National Recreation Trails on non-National Forest lands with the consent of cooperating Federal agencies, States, their political subdivisions, other administrating agencies, or private landowners.

2353.3 - National Recreation Trail Administration.

2353.31 - Policy.

1. New designations should emphasize a trail network concept where possible. Designate interconnecting trails as a National Recreation Trail System where a number of interconnecting trails meet the designation criteria.

2. Motorized trails and four-wheel drive ways may be designated as National Recreation Trails.

3. Do not consider trails within the National Wilderness Preservation System for designation. Trails with only a short segment in a wilderness may be designated as a National Recreation Trail.

4. The Regional Forester may establish National Recreation Trails on National Forest lands or on other ownerships with the written consent of other Federal agencies, the States, their political subdivisions, other appropriate administering agencies, or private owners.

2353.32 - National Recreation Trails. Regional Foresters shall designate National Recreation Trails (FSM 2353.04) as provided in sections 4 and 6 of the National Trails System Act. These trails must:

1. Represent the more outstanding trail opportunities of the Forest Development Trail System.

2. Provide a day-use or extended trail experience for a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities reasonably accessible to population centers.

3. Emphasize designation of an interconnecting network of National Trails.

2353.33 - National Recreation Trail Designation Process.

2353.33a - Reports. Prepare and submit an establishment report to the Regional Forester.

The report must include the following information:

1. Approval page.

2. Name and location of proposed trail, including map indicating trail and vicinity, when appropriate.

3. History of the trail.

4. Description of the trail, trail objective, and associated environments, including cultural features.

5. Management direction covering such items as protection, safety, maintenance, rules and regulations, signing, and associated recreation facilities.

6. Assessment of impacts on the trail and associated resources as a result of designation.

7. A statement that the trail or trail system will be available for public use and enjoyment for at least 10 consecutive years.

2353.33b - National Recreation Trail Designation Criteria. A trail or a network of trails must meet the following criteria to be designated for the National Recreation Trail System.

1. Readiness. Designate a trail only if it is in place and available for public use.

2. Use and Availability. The trail must provide a variety of trail-related recreation opportunities within approximately 2 hours of automobile travel time from the population centers of the Region under consideration.

3. Length. The length of a proposed National Recreation Trail or Trail System may vary, depending upon its use and purpose, but it must be continuous.

4. Location. The trail incorporates the significant natural and cultural features of the area through which it passes. The trail may utilize a variety of locations if the location is in accordance with planned trail use and reasonably provides for public safety.

2353.33c - Establishment Reports for National Recreation, Connecting, and Side Trails. Submit one copy of the designation report to the Washington Office and appropriate copies to cooperators.

2353.34 - National Recreation Trail System Development.

2353.34a - Design. Use chapter 2 of FSH 2309.18, Trails Management Handbook.

2353.35 - Management of National Recreation Trails.

1. Other Uses for National Recreation Trails. The primary purpose of a National Recreation Trail is for outdoor recreation use. Permit other uses such as power transmission, livestock drives, and logging-road operations, that do not conflict with the nature and long-term purpose of the trail. Ensure that special visual management considerations are incorporated into the execution of such uses.

2. Management Objectives. Manage use in keeping with the objectives established for the trail and lands associated with the trail. Where a short segment of trail goes through a wilderness, manage the entire trail to be compatible with the wilderness objectives.

Trails on land administered by the US Department of Agriculture, overseen by the USDA National Recreation Trail Program Coordinator:

Jamie Schwartz --
Recreation, Heritage & Wilderness, USDA Forest Service
P O Box 96090, Washington DC 20090
(202) 205-1589 -- (202) 205-1145

Updated Spetember 7, 2002

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